Regional business body calls for labor-intensive Covid-19 response

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Bereng Mpaki

MEMBERS of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been urged to prioritise economic sectors with higher job creation prospects in the post COVID-19 period.

This was highlighted during a recent online meeting of the SADC Business Council, a body of private sector and business associations in the SADC region.

The meeting was meant to discuss the post COVID-19 recovery strategies in SADC, with focus on the Covid-19 induced regional trade challenges among SADC Member States and the economic sectors to be prioritised in the post Covid-19 period to stimulate quick economic recovery.

The meeting noted that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presented a significant challenge to SADC economies by disrupting global and regional value chains, which will lead to a global recession and global trade contraction.

The participants agreed that navigating the Covid-19 challenges will take well-coordinated interventions at national, regional and at the global level.

“As SADC member states respond to the Covid-19 outbreak, the region is urged to balance managing the infections with funding/prioritising key economic sectors to stimulate the economy and, in the process, create the needed jobs in the post Covid-19 period,” a communique released after the meeting said.

The meeting also pinpointed certain economic sectors that are likely to create jobs.

“To improve employment, job security and food security, member states are urged to prioritise the following labor-intensive economic sectors post the Covid-19 pandemic:

“Agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, transport, mining with reference to the copper and cobalt value chains, the health industry to produce enough heath products for the region, the energy sector, pharmaceuticals, construction with focus on major capital projects.”

The meeting also recommended putting in place financial interventions to assist small businesses that have been threatened by Covid-19.

It was recommended that countries provide cheaper loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) at special lending rates since many of the small businesses which many African livelihoods depend on are threatened by Covid-19.

Loan facilities and other incentives should be provided at special rates to businesses to fund the resuscitation of key economic industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, health and transport, the delegates said.

The meeting also called for promotion of import substitution measures to replace previously imported commodities and use of the SADC Integrated Regional Electronic Payment System (SIRESS) to reduce corresponding banking charges in regional trade.

On the issue of cross border logistics, the meeting recommended the harmonisation of border protocols including strategies on movement of people and repatriations, enhancement of border authorities’ capacity at entry points to facilitate real-time clearance of goods and services and the creation of a digital interface between neighbouring countries to reduce paperwork delays.

In terms of Covid-19 support, the delegates said tests must be standardized while there must be regionally controlled test centers at entry and exit points as part of the harmonisation process.

“Local companies must also be supported to increase their capacity to produce Covid-19 products and equipment. Countries must also share national and international best practices from other regions in managing Covid-19,” the communique said.

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